FREE SOIL TWP. — The line started shortly after 6 p.m. Friday night for the first of five frightful evenings of the Cages of Carnage Haunted Prison at the former Camp Sauble prison in Free Soil Township.

It didn’t take long for the line to extend far, not only because of social distancing necessary due to COVID-19, but also because of the number of people ready to take in the second year of the Cages of Carnage. The haunted prison is a fundraiser for the Free Soil-Meade and Grant Township fire departments.

Near the front of the line were Tom and Nate Ooms of Irons, returning after 2019’s first year.

“We came last year,” Tom said. “We wanted to come again this year.”

Nate said he was scared a lot last year at times. He described a time when a performer in costume came up behind him with a chainsaw.

While that was one costumed performer, there were dozens on hand at 7 p.m. — a half-hour before showtime — who received a pep talk from the pair of “wardens” helping to keep everyone organized.

Instructions were given, and the safety procedures for the performers were outlined one final time before the fun began. The performers ranged in age from those who were older to teens and kids. The costumes and the makeup were all set to go and the performers took their places after the talk.

Back outside, with the line forming, two, then three scary clowns started to make their rounds with the patrons who were about to get their scares for the evening. For many, it proved to be a time to take a selfie with the clowns, but there were some audible gasps as the clowns worked the line.

Last year, there was one journey through the prison, but organizers created a second way through this time.

Free Soil-Meade Fire Chief Vince Williams said there were 800 admissions sold Saturday night.

“Some went through it twice. That’s a pretty good first night,” Williams said.

Williams said most people had a good time, and the actors who provided the scares started to really enjoy it as they received the reactions they were looking for. And the weather cooperated, too.

“It was actually a pretty good night. The weather was beautiful. It started to get a little chilly toward the end, but it was good,” Williams said.

Williams said people followed the social distancing protocols, and most wore masks. The reserves for the Mason County Sheriff’s Office were on hand for security and Williams was grateful.

The Cages of Carnage will be open again this coming Friday and Saturday, Oct. 16 and 17, as well as Friday and Saturday, Oct. 23 and 24. The gates are expected to open at 7:30 p.m. each night.

The Managing Editor for the Ludington Daily News since June 2018 and on the staff since Oct. 2011, taking over for legendary Lloyd Wallace. Previously with The Chippewa Herald in Chippewa Falls, Wis., and the Tuscola County Advertiser in Caro.